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Vigilante Man

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"In certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law."
Frank Castle, The Punisher (2004)

The Vigilante Man is a man who brings criminals to justice by any means necessary, even if it means killing the criminals outright. Although he is breaking the law, he is presented as the good guy. If the police are after him, expect them to secretly sympathize with his goals. Occasionally, one officer is determined to catch the Vigilante Man, but you can be sure that his fellow officers aren't working very hard to help him. The "good" Vigilante Man refuses to fight the police, and if confronted, will either surrender or die before harming them, and may even try to keep killing to zero whenever possible. The "bad" Vigilante Man is willing to kill anyone who tries to stop him. (In such cases, compare with the Cowboy Cop.)

The people the Vigilante Man is after are always guilty — or at least, they are in his mind, especially if he's the villain.

Most Vigilantes will (try to) not hurt an Innocent Bystander; he will often go out of his way to avoid killing them, if possible. In the rare times they do, it is only to provide some angst as the Vigilante Man wonders if he is doing the right thing. Expect a Finger in the Mail to show up and convince the Vigilante Man that his job of catching the Ax-Crazy Psychopathic Manchild and saving the child held captive makes it worth it.

The Vigilante Man's favorite method of execution is (obviously) the Vigilante Execution. If he's also a police officer, this makes him a vigilante-driven version of the Killer Cop. If he's got an (uneasy, usually unofficial) alliance with the police, then Cops Need the Vigilante. A cop whose method towards disposing criminals is just as final but who does operate within the law goes under Judge, Jury, and Executioner. The legal version is The Executioner.

"Urban vigilante" protagonists were a staple of action movies roughly between the 1970s and the very early 1990s mainly as rising crime rates and increasing police corruption (and racism in the case of blaxploitation films) led people to lose faith in the long arm of the law and act for themselves instead. Concerns about justice by one's own hand eventually led to a more negative view of vigilantes, and modern straight examples are often frowned upon.

A subtrope of the Anti-Hero and Well-Intentioned Extremist. May be Neutral Good, True Neutral, Neutral Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, or even Chaotic Evil, depending on the setting. If he stops discriminating between innocents and bad guys, he might end up Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and become that which he despises. Sometimes he can be a Reformed, but Not Tamed character. Vigilante Injustice does come into play when the vigilante man is clearly counterproductive and problematic for the law enforcers.

If several vigilante men assemble into a team, you've got a Vigilante Militia. See also Serial-Killer Killer. The Asshole Victim is often this guy's target, as is someone who (deservedly or not) is Convicted by Public Opinion.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Sociopathic Hero of the manga Akumetsu is one of these, although rather than just targeting criminals, he goes after anyone he considers bringing evil to Japan. Disturbingly, although the stories have a forward stating that the character should not be considered a role model, his frequent rants on what's wrong with Japanese society give an impression otherwise.
  • Black Clover: Zora Ideale, the mysterious and Ambiguously Evil member of Asta's team during the Royal Knights Tournament turns out to be one. After his father was killed by elitist Magic Knights and he witnessed the Nominal Heroism of the Magic Knights, he started going around attacking the ones that committed crimes. The man he is introduced attacking was actually about to attack an old lady who bothered him by asking help to find her granddaughter and Zora defended her.
  • Call of the Night: Susuki cracks down on vampires who attract too much attention or threaten the masquerade. While Kiku's antics attract her attention, humans are just as likely to become her targets if she feels that they are a threat: Susuki makes an attempt to kidnap Anko so that she can help her find Kiku, but later makes it clear that she intends to kill her for the Halloween incident and for knowing too much about vampires in general, along with Yamori and Akira. When Azami and Nazuna get in her way, Susuki demonstrates how much stronger she is than the average vampire by defeating them within minutes.
  • Lelouch in Code Geass, in creating the terrorist group the Black Knights, is trying to overthrow Brittania's racist, Social Darwinist regime, so as to create his sister Nunnally's longed-for "beautiful world."
  • Light Yagami, the Villain Protagonist of Death Note. Death is the only punishment he can dish out. Early on, he states that he's going to create a world filled with only good-hearted people he approves of. He's simply going to start with the criminals... and he quickly crosses over into "bad" vigilante man territory, when in the second chapter he leaps off the slippery slope and begins to target and kill all those who oppose Kira, including law-enforcement officials. With the exception of his family and officials he considers useful enough, he is very ruthless when dealing with his opponents.
  • Jellal becomes this in Fairy Tail, forming a small independent guild that hunts down dark guilds, something the Council doesn't allow of the guilds in its jurisdiction, as it counts as illegal warring between guilds.
  • In Future Diary, the Twelfth is a vigilante whose heart seems to be in the right place: his goal is usually just to capture criminals to help the police, not kill them outright. However, he dresses and acts so creepily that the people he's trying to help often beat him up or arrest him. Then he gets involved in the Diary Game and starts killing with no remorse since he feels that "Justice" is on his side.
    • In the third dimension, he manages to be far more competent and sane. He gets the Third arrested but also keeps visiting him in prison in an attempt to help him rehabilitate and eventually rejoin society.
  • In Ghost in the Shell, Section 9 is frequently doing some work "off the record". But unlike most other law enforcement agencies, they don't do it for their own gain.
  • My Hero Academia: Anyone who wants to fight crime is supposed to become a government-licensed Pro Hero. Anyone who performs heroics without a license is called a vigilante. They are legally considered no different from villains and can be stopped without mercy. The Spin-Off manga My Hero Academia: Vigilantes follows a team of vigilantes consisting of Koichi Haimawari (Crawler), Kazuho Haneyama (Pop Step), and Mr. Oguro (Knuckleduster). They are mostly Small Steps Heroes who work to keep civilians safe until the Pro Heroes can arrive. Every hero they meet soon decides that they didn't notice the vigilantes doing anything illegal.
  • Rage of Bahamut: Genesis has former straight-up villain Azazel become a vigilante known as the "rag demon" in the second season, Virgin Soul. In this guise, he stalks and murders humans who abuse his fellow demons.
  • Kyouya Hibari from Reborn! (2004). He rules Nanimori with an iron fist and does whatever he pleases since people are too afraid to call him out on it, but god help you if you so much as look at his hometown the wrong way.
  • In Romeo × Juliet, Juliet starts out disguising herself as one of these, nicknamed "The Red Tornado".
  • The Samurai Gun exist to avenge the evils of the Shogunate, though in practise this means avenging the deaths of large-breasted women.
  • In Shin Sakura Taisen the Novel: Hizakura no Koro, Hatsuho Shinonome serves as the leader of a vigilante gang who frequently stops ruffians from causing trouble.
  • Lunatic in Tiger & Bunny. As opposed to Heroes who take part in HeroTV who only seek to arrest criminals, Lunatic actually kills them. Though he tends to save this for people who REALLY deserve it.
  • Tista from the Tista manga would probably constitute as a female example of this. She is an assassin who kills immoral people who the law cannot catch.
  • Triage X follows an entire team of medically-themed vigilantes who kill gang leaders, mob bosses, and other menaces to society.
  • You're Under Arrest! has Strike Man, a costumed self-proclaimed defender of justice, who uses baseball-related items to exact his brand of "justice" against (generally) minor violators of law, such as humiliating people who litter on streets or deflating tires of illegally parked vehicles. The police in Bokutou Station generally sees him as a nuisance as he tends to obstruct their duties.

    Comic Books 

DC Comics

  • Batman:
    • Batman himself isn't really a cozy guy, but in his earliest comics, he was a straight-up murderer. The Golden Age Batman is legendary for using guns on criminals, letting crooks drop to a painful death in a vat of acid, and a lot more.
    • Jason Todd became one of these after coming Back from the Dead, criticizing Batman for being too "soft" on criminals and wanting more than anything to kill the Joker.
    • The Huntress became a vigilante after her family was murdered by rival mafiosi.
  • The Crimson Avenger, who also has the honor of being (disputably) The DCU's first masked superhero.
  • The Paladin, who appeared in a Justice League of America story where Anansi was changing all the heroes' stories, is an alternate Bruce Wayne who picked up Joe Chill's gun while he was running off and shot him. He became a gun-toting vigilante in a cowboy hat, whose story (until Vixen interferes) ends with him and Commissioner Gordon in a Mexican Standoff.
  • The federal prosecutor Kate Spencer, who became the vigilante assassin Manhunter after she got tired of criminals dodging legal justice.
  • In The Question, the Mikado is a physician who starts inflicting karmic justice on those who caused the pain he sees every day in the ER. A man who scalded his newborn baby is boiled alive, for example.
  • Superman was this in his earliest appearances. For starters, he demolished an entire housing estate and left the city to deal with the damage themselves, he trapped a bunch of socialites in a mine where air was limited, he threw villains to their deaths, he left criminals hogtied in the middle of nowhere and actually scared more than one mook to death.
  • Adrian Chase — a district attorney, and later judge, who hunted down and killed crooks who got off — was named simply Vigilante, though Chase eventually became a Deconstruction of vigilante justice and ended up committing suicide due to his guilt over the increasing violence of his methods and actions. (He, or possibly one of his successors, is the guy in the illustration with the "V" on his head).
  • Wild Dog was a largely unknown vigilante (now better known to TV audiences as part of Team Arrow). He's basically per his creator Max Allan Collins in Amazing Heroes #119, a modern version of the Shadow, Zorro, the Lone Ranger, and the Green Hornet. (He's the guy in the illustration with the hockey mask/jersey.)
  • Watchmen: Rorschach is a deconstruction of this trope, as well as the Anti-Hero in general. He is not presented as a good person and the police disdain him — in fact, they hate him almost as much as the criminals do.

Marvel Comics

  • All-New Ultimates: Scourge is killing off Serpent Skulls and other gang members in order to incite gang warfare.
  • Daredevil has a very strict Thou Shall Not Kill policy, but he's far from a saint. Any criminal he comes across in Hell's Kitchen ends up at the receiving end of a really brutal beat down, or a torture session (blowtorch, anyone?)
  • John Tensen from The New Universe title Justice. In early issues, when he thinks he's a warrior from a Magical Land, he goes after criminals in general. After a Retcon reveals that he's actually a paranormal, he devotes himself to policing his brethren, punishing the ones who use their powers for evil.
  • Moon Knight was a mercenary before he became a superhero, so of course his methods are extremely brutal. He even goes as far as to curve moons in his victims' faces to mark his handiwork.
  • Perhaps the most famous example is The Punisher, who kills every criminal he comes across. Notably, in his comics, most of the villains he kills are the lowest of scum that humanity has to offer. The overall result is that the rest of the superhero community doesn't like him (especially Daredevil), but keeps him around and respects him because he serves as a reminder of what they could become if they cross the line.
  • The alternate version of Peter Parker in Spider-Man Noir. Growing up in the Great Depression and seeing first-hand how much the people suffer and how deep the corruption goes, this version of Peter operates at nights, hunting down and beating criminals, leaving calling cards and using firearms. He even guns down the Vulture and lets both Kraven and the Goblin be eaten alive by spiders.
  • Night Raven, directly homaging the Shadow and the Spider


  • Victor Ray from 100 Bullets kills criminals in his spare time to balance out the awful things he does on behalf of Agent Graves.
  • John Dusk, the protagonist of Absolution. He's a superhero in a setting where the superheroes are all legitimate law enforcement officers, which means they have to observe due process and other pesky legal restrictions. One day, he gets fed up with having his hands tied, and starts killing.
  • Archie Comics line-up of Dark Circle Comics, has Greg Hettinger, the Black Hood. Greg is a mutilated cop with a drug habit who, after a few rough spots, has taken on the identity of the Black Hood ((he had previously killed the former Black Hood)) in order to take down untouchable criminals like the mayor's brother.
  • Although Astro City is more idealistic than not, it does have its share of rough-and-tumble heroes. Examples include the Blue Knight, Hellhound, the Pale Horseman, Hollowpoint, and the Street Angel (during his Darker and Edgier phase).
  • Eric Draven in The Crow. Although, since he's already died and has resurrected as an unkillable zombie, he's technically a Vigilante Thing.
  • Judge Dredd: Naturally, as a brutal By-the-Book Cop, Judge Dredd will crack down hard on vigilantes in Mega-City One who think they should "assist" the Justice Department in its duties. They're not the law, HE is the law.
  • Pack: The vigilante in question is Patience, who leads a pack of dogs in a crusade against criminal elements in Brooklyn. He is not above having them maul criminals.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: In the early stories, Paperinik (Donald Duck's superhero alter ego in some Italian stories) was not actually a superhero, but an anti-hero vindicator inspired by Diabolik and Fantômas that punish bad people with terror and humiliations. The writers toned this aspect down later and turned him into a Batman-style heroic avenger instead, and he started targeting the criminal population of Duckburg, in particular the Beagle Boys.
  • Find a hero who doesn't fit this trope in Sin City.
  • Mr. Dig in Sink is a fox-masked vigilante who dishes out his own brand of justice on those unfortunate to cross him.
  • Casey Jones from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics.
  • V from V for Vendetta. While throughout the series he's seen as more of a... vengeful terrorist, he does show some (although few) signs that he started out as one of these and simply got tired of not making progress.

    Fan Works 
  • All For Luz has Luz becomes one under the name "All For One" who is liked by Gravesfield locals but it has put her on the cops' radar.
  • In the Worm x Dishonored crossover fanfic, A Change of Pace, Taylor serves as this by virtue of being an independent hero, not being affiliated with the PRT. There are measures she can take because of how the setting works, but more than half walk because they can't make official arrests.
  • In Danganronpa: Last Hurrah, one of the students is said to be Sparkling Justice 2.0 (see Video Games for more). It's Reyes, the Ultimate Fencer, who's from Spain.
  • Entropy: The Fate of the Hero System: Momo, by necessity, for the latter half of The Everything Hero: Arsenal. Though she has a hero license, people refuse to work with her hero persona due to false allegations regarding her ability in a fight. As a result, she moonlights as the titular Arsenal, using a different costume and hiding her face, and claiming Arsenal's takedowns as her own in order to up her case-solve rate. Unfortunately, it's not enough to escape the Heroic Contributions Act, leading to her going full vigilante and eventually pulling a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Master/Traveller from the Freedom Planet fanfic Freedom Dies With Me is this, across the multiverse no less, to atone for his past atrocities. He is even labeled a 'Multiverse Vigilante' by multiple characters and himself, with hints that his kind are so well-known that even Torque's people have heard of them (and that there are enough of them to be considered a 'kind' in the first place).
  • Mastermind: Rise of Anarchy: Thanks to the events of Strategist For Hire, vigilantism is on the rise; the reputation of Pro Heroes has nosedived, and people are more inclined to take justice into their own hands.
    • Of particular note is Bakugou Katsuki, who turns to vigilantism as an outlet for their rage and frustration over not being able to do anything about Mastermind personally. Their Black-and-White Insanity leads them to give their victims No-Holds-Barred Beatdowns, and they're stunned when this puts them on the radar of real heroes, unable to see their own cruelty for what it is.
    • In contrast to the above, Aizawa runs into one of his former students — somebody he expelled from U.A. after deciding they didn't have what it took to become a Pro Hero. They've become a vigilante for the sake of helping others in the increasingly lawless society.
  • The Archer in Path of the King is one of these.
  • In Ranma Saotome, Chi Master, Ranma's guru spends much of her time tackling crime in Hong Kong, using lethal force if necessary. During the time he lived with her, Ranma aided her in her activities.
  • The Secret Return of Alex Mack: When the SRI is called to hunt down a monster in Tromaville, it doesn't take long to realize that the place is thoroughly corrupt, and the "Toxic Avenger" killing some of the ringleaders actually made some sense. Which isn't the same as saying it was the right or best choice. Colonel O'Neill isn't in any hurry to bring him onto the SRI team, despite his Super-Strength and Super-Toughness, because he's too much of a loose cannon.
  • In Viridian: The Green Guide, Izuku Midoriya doesn't receive One-For-All and remains quirkless. He subsequently decides to become a Vigilante, taking advantage of the fact that the Quirkless technically cannot be vigilantes because the law defines vigilantism as using one's quirk similar to a Pro-Hero without having a hero license, so he can help save people.

    Film — Animation 
  • In TMNT, Raphael becomes the Nightwatcher while Leonardo is in South America. TMNT being a kids' movie, Raph doesn't kill anybody, but he doles out some major beatings to all criminals he comes across.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Act of Vengeance, the five women form the Rape Squad to track down and kill the man who raped them. Along the way, they decide to exact (non-lethal) vengeance on any other rapists they encounter.
  • Acts of Vengeance (2017): Valera, dismayed by the inability of the police to find his wife and daughter's murderer, sets out on a quest to get vengeance on his own.
  • Asian School Girls: After going out for a night on the town, four ethnic Asian schoolgirls are abducted, abused and gang-raped by members of a Los Angeles crime syndicate. When one of them later commits suicide out of shame of being sexually violated, her three remaining friends turn to the underworld of crime to train themselves to track down and kill all the thugs responsible.
  • Assault on Wall Street: Jim goes on a one-man crusade to assassinate people responsible for the 2008 financial crash.
  • Batman
    • The movies by Tim Burton took this to a new extreme. While Batman normally acted like your average grim and gritty crime-fighter, he had no problems with killing over 20 people in the first movie. For example, he lit a couple of mooks on fire, he killed several mooks with his not-rubber bullets and used a handgun in the NES game based on the film.
    • Much like the Tim Burton Batman, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice also features a Batman that kills criminals without batting an eye. He uses guns with no hesitation, runs over mooks with his batmobile, and brands criminals he deems particularly reprehensible, resulting in them getting killed in prison. He also wants to flat out murder Superman because he thinks Superman is a threat to the planet.
  • Big Driver: Tess decides not to report her rape and attempted murder, knowing how rape victims often suffer both in the legal system along with the public. Instead, she tracks her rapist down, to kill both him and his accomplices.
  • Billy Jack is one of the strangest ones, a Liberal Vigilante Man.
  • In Blood Debts, Mark Collins seeks revenge for his daughter's death and hunts down the men responsible. This ends up attracting him the attention of the film's main antagonist Bill, who orders him to kill other criminals.
  • The Boondock Saints is about two brothers taking it upon themselves to rid Boston of crime by killing all criminals in the city.
  • Jodie Foster in The Brave One plays a liberal, female vigilante, in a meditation on the paranoia and isolation the life of the Vigilante Man (or Woman) would entail, especially if they used to be a "normal" person. Interesting callback to the first Death Wish in her chosen method too.
  • In Coffy, Pam Grier plays a nurse who exacts revenge on drug dealers after her sister overdoses on heroin.
  • Cold Pursuit has Liam Neeson as a snowplow driver (!) turned vigilante.
  • Contract On Cherry Street (1977) has Frank Sinatra as the leader of a team of NYPD detectives who turn vigilante on The Mafia after one of them is killed.
  • Dark Angel: The Ascent: Veronica, a demoness charged with punishing sinners, starts to kill several wicked people during her time on Earth by gutting them and feeding them to her dog.
  • In Death Rides a Horse, Bill and Ryan go vigilante to take down Walcott's gang. In fact, Bill actively refuses to become a sheriff's deputy in order to not be shackled by due process.
  • The Death Wish movies. Paul Kersey becomes a vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter is sexually assaulted by muggers. Also an Unbuilt Trope as the film pioneered the urban vigilante concept, but it also showed how dangerous it would be. By the time of Death Wish 3, Kersey is infamous for harrying the police, who are powerless to pin any charges on him (but are happy to take credit for his crime-fighting accomplishments). Police Chief Richard Shirker tries to contain him but ends up joining the fray when Kersey is ambushed by gangsters. Similarly, in Death Wish II, Detective Frank Ochoa pursues Kersey all the way from New York City to try to stop his vigilantism after kicking him out of town in the first film, and decides to help Kersey during a shootout with some hoodlums (who murdered Kersey's daughter), ending up fatally wounded.
    Kersey: You stuck your neck out for me?
    Detective Frank Ocha: (dying) It was you or them.
  • Death Wish (2018): Just as in the original film, Paul Kersey begins a one-man war against criminals after a criminal gang murders his wife and seriously wounds his daughter.
  • Some of the Dirty Harry films feature vigilantes:
    • In Magnum Force, Dirty Harry finds he is actually on the opposite side of some vigilante men. It might be considered impossible that he would object, but when the vigilante men kill a police officer, we can guess even Harry figures they went too far. This movie actually explains the difference between Cowboy Cop (Harry) and Vigilante Man (the vigilante policemen). Dirty Harry uses excessive force when fighting criminals who forcefully resist arrest or directly endanger innocents (his iconic do I feel lucky? speech actually taunts the criminals to give him reason to use lethal force). He doesn't hunt and kill unsuspecting criminals (when Scorpio is released on a technicality, Harry tries to scare him; when Ricca is acquitted on a legal loophole, vigilante cops immediately kill him, his lawyer, and even his driver).
    • In Sudden Impact: Jennifer Spencer tracks down and murders the people responsible for brutally gang-raping her and her sister (resulting in the latter's catatonia) several years before. Oddly enough, Dirty Harry doesn't arrest her once he discovers the truth, an apparent change from his actions and attitude in Magnum Force; possibly justified in-universe in that this vigilante kills no innocents and, in fact, spares one of the rapists who is now in the same state as her sister.
  • Fire with Fire: After he's nearly killed while in Witness Protection and the brutal crime boss behind it threatens to also murder all of his loved ones, Jeremy determines that he's got to take him on his own. He goes after Hagan and his gang directly, killing several.
  • In Foxy Brown Pam Grier's character's boyfriend is an undercover cop who is murdered by the gang he was infiltrating. She does a Dirty Harriet to infiltrate the gang, and then exacts a bloody revenge.
  • Inverted in the Western movie Hang 'Em High. Clint Eastwood is the innocent victim of vigilantes who mistake him for a murderer/cattle thief (he unknowingly bought the cattle off the real killer). He then becomes a deputy to bring them to justice and must resist pressure both situational and personal to take the law into his own hands.
  • Hard Candy: Hayley may qualify as one due to her crusade against pedophile rapists. That or she may be a budding Serial Killer.
  • The Michael Caine movie Harry Brown is about an elderly veteran who decides to take justice into his own hands once his friend is murdered by the local thugs.
  • The Hobo in Hobo With a Shotgun. A homeless vigilante who blows away crooked cops, pedophile Santas, and other scumbags with his trusty pump-action shotgun.
  • In the Bedroom: Matt and an old Army buddy of his decide to forcibly make Richard leave town at gunpoint. It turns into murder as Matt then kills Richard, after which the two bury him in the woods.
  • In the Fade: After her family's murderers are acquitted, Katja decides to kill both of them.
  • The eponymous John Doe: Vigilante. True to form, his victims are all Asshole Victims—child molesters, abusive husbands, culminating in the guy who killed his wife and daughter.
  • In Julia X, sisters Julia and Jessica hunt and kill sexual predators. However, while Julia is careful to ensure that her targets actually deserve their fate, the Ax-Crazy Jessica seems to regard all males as viable targets.
  • Juncture: After being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Anna decides to spend her last three months hunting down those who have harmed children and escaped justice.
  • Seemingly deconstructed in Law Abiding Citizen, with Clyde Shelton Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. On the other hand, it also seems to portray the criminal justice system as ineffectual.
  • In Man on Fire, John Creasy takes it upon himself to track down and kill the people responsible for kidnapping and murdering a girl while he was working for her family as a bodyguard.
  • M.F.A.: After accidentally killing her own rapist, Noelle becomes a vigilante, hunting down and killing sexual predators.
  • Miss Meadows: Miss Meadows kills violent criminals she comes across. It's implied that she'd done this before in the city where she used to live, as it's mentioned that vigilante killings occurred there too.
  • In Murders Among Us, Hans Mertens almost becomes this, but instead decides not to kill Bruckner at the insistence of Suzanne.
  • Nocturnal Animals: When there isn't enough admissible evidence against them, Andes leads Tony in tracking down each of their rapists/murderers and then killing them.
  • Vigilantism is attacked in the 1943 western The Ox-Bow Incident, wherein three obviously innocent men are persecuted and ultimately murdered by a lynch mob.
  • Preacher in the movie Pale Rider, a mysterious preacher who protects a humble prospector village from a greedy mining company trying to encroach on their land.
  • Peppermint: Failed by a legal system made ineffective by corruption, Riley North takes matters into her own hands and takes on the criminals responsible for her family's death.
  • Deconstructed with Keller Dover in Prisoners, who nails and brutally tortures the wrong man for kidnapping his daughter.
  • In the movie Punisher: War Zone, the "victims are always guilty" rule was notably averted: near the beginning of the movie, he discovers that one of the people he killed was actually an undercover FBI agent with a family. He feels so guilty about it that he offers the agent's widow a bag full of mafia money, as well as the chance to shoot him.
  • In Pyrokinesis, the protagonist is a female example, killing criminals with the title psychic power. She manages to stay a good guy despite fighting against the police, because the chief of police is also the head of the snuff ring she's been targeting.
  • Re;member: Max and Zev are determined to kill the Nazi who murdered their families. The former is too feeble for action however so Zev is sent out on the hunt.
  • Joey Rosso from Rolling Vengeance (1987). His weapon of choice happens to be a Monster Truck.
  • Savage Streets (1984) has Linda Blair as a tough high school girl who turns vigilante after a vicious gang called the Scars rape her deaf-mute sister and murder her best friend.
  • Saw: The various Jigsaw killers and their copycats put those who previously committed crimes without receiving any punishment for it into Death Traps, though their manners vary a lot beyond that.
    • John Kramer was the one who had the original idea of Jigsaw: rehabilitating people through death traps in order to teach them different lessons, including the general one of appreciating their lives. This is deconstructed in that his traps did nothing good for his surviving victims, often facing a downward spiral afterwards or defying his methods (the latter being the case for most of his apprentices, as listed below). Plus, it's shown in Saw III that the only solution John has to this is testing the victims over and over until they either "truly rehabilitate" or die.
    • Amanda Young went along with John's philosophy at first, but began doubting it by the events of Saw III, when she begins rigging traps to be inescapable in the belief that people can't change. This is the reason why John secretly tests her later on, and when she realizes it, she completely disregards his philosophy just before her death.
    • Mark Hoffman originally set up an inescapable Jigsaw copycat trap to avenge his dead sister when her murderer was released from prison. Then John practically forced him to become a disciple of his, so Hoffman never trusted his methods at least once; he only ran whatever "games" John had left planned to cover up that he was adhered to his philosophy. By that point, the only victims Hoffman put in a trap of his own were a group of skinheads whose leader had to do a painfully difficult task to survive. He wasn't above meddling his crimes either, as he directly killed numerous law enforcement officers (even attempting to frame one of them as a killer in his place) just to avoid getting caught or carry out his schemes.
    • Logan Nelson was the first person indoctrinated into John's philosophy, and while he remained mostly faithful to it, he parted ways with John at some point before the latter got his other apprentices, only becoming a full-time killer long after all of them died. He's more motivated to make his victims confess their sins rather than rehabilitate themselves, and even still he didn't go through that method in his first scheme seen, where he sought to get revenge against Halloran and his informants when one of the latter murdered his wife. Much like Hoffman, he tries to cover himself up behind John's philosophy, though rather by attempting to convince people that John is still alive and getting Halloran framed in case that doesn't work.
    • William Schenk is arguably the closest one to a typical vigilante overall, only using the Jigsaw methods to murder Dirty Cops, who comprise a large part of the Metropolitan Police Department, and trying to get out of the way once his identity is going to be exposed. He was first motivated into doing this when one of said cops murdered his father to prevent him from testifying against him.
  • In Sheba, Baby, Pam Grier plays a Private Investigator whose father is murdered by gangsters trying to take over his business.
  • Sex and Death 101: Death Nell seduces men who had mistreated women in different ways (ranging from date rapists to just insulting or exploiting them), drugging the guys into comas.
  • The Star Chamber (1983): The father of the murdered boy, who attempts to murder the two men accused of murdering his son after they're released on a technicality, but shoots a cop accidentally who stops him instead (who had arrested the suspects earlier along with his partner in fact).
  • Two Fathers Justice (1985). A newly married couple are killed by drug dealers, and their fathers reluctantly team up to track down their killers who've fled the country.
  • Vampire's Kiss: Instead of going with her to the police, Alva's brother kills Peter for him raping her.
  • In Vigilante Diaries, the Vigilante is a former black ops operative who has declared war on street crime. His sidekicks the Kid, and Kid 2.0, also count.

  • The nameless cabal in Already Dead doesn't kill their targets themselves. Instead (for a hefty fee), they offer to hunt down the person who committed the crime and turn him over to the victim — complete with a very large table full of things like drills, knives, hammers, and blowtorches.
  • Justice Wargrave from And Then There Were None. Although he lacks the physical prowess of a typical Vigilante Man, the idea is the same: kill people who have escaped legal justice.
  • Vigilante man? Try vigilante GENERAL!!! Ben Raines of The Ashes Series'' by William Johnstone. Imagine if the Punisher saved America by being the post-apocalyptic George Washington. Imagine the rest of the world is made of alternately criminal drug-running dictators or tree-hugging communist hippies. And now imagine he's just been elected president. And you still only have a TENTH of the insanity of this world. Raines does such downright crazy and morally black shit sometimes that not even The Emperor would approve of (like blitzing a city of war orphans being brainwashed into child soldiers just so it won't cost him a single Red-White-And-Blue-Blooded American life, or monologuing about how children who grow up in slums can never know what the good life is to reporters, then gunning them down on live television). Essentially, he commits vast atrocities on par or above standard Crapsack World characters simply because he is as risk-averse as a cuddly soccer mom. A cuddly soccer mom with nuclear arms, miles of artillery shells, and a fetish for napalm and fuel bombs. Small wonder anybody with any semblance of religious leaning considers him the Antichrist. (A lot of it scarily justified through 'sins of the father/brother/sister/mother' arguments.)
  • Black Bat: The Black Bat is an attorney who was blinded by a perp. After having his vision restored and gaining superpowers, he began fighting crime more personally as a masked crime-fighter. However, all the Black Bat normally does is beat up or knock out criminals, stamp them with his bat emblem, and let the police arrest them.
  • In Ian McEwan's novella Black Dogs, the narrator becomes a Good Vigilante Man after he sees a man in a restaurant smack his kid across the face so hard the kid's chair is knocked over backwards and cracks on the floor. The narrator challenges the man to "fight someone his own size" and then manages to break the guy's nose and knock him out with a few punches. He is called off by a waitress and stops him just before he becomes He Who Fights Monsters and kicks the guy to death. This moment provides a contrast from the Grey-and-Gray Morality of the rest of the book.
  • Rose Hathaway in Blood Promise. She goes on her own unsanctioned Strigoi-hunting mission, breaking a lot of guardian rules in the process.
  • In Curtain, Hercule Poirot sees himself as this when he has to kill Stephen Norton, the serial killer who committed murders-by-proxy and got away with them without getting caught.
  • In Dance Of The Butterfly, a masked vigilante undertakes a crusade against the city's most powerful criminal organization to thwart their human trafficking operation.
  • The Dinner: Michel might consider himself to be hero who's working outside the law to bring justice to criminals: Michel had once written a school essay justifying the extra-judicial killing of heinous criminals. His attack on the homeless woman in the ATM could have been motivated in part by a desire to punish her for squatting. During the dinner itself, Paul and Claire try to mitigate the boys' actions by suggesting that the homeless woman wasn't actually an "innocent".
  • Kyle Youngblood in the Dr. Death series of novels winds up living up to his name to his friends and family as well as his enemies, as their retribution drags them into the crossfire often. The only friend he has who never dies is Rafe, the one who accompanies him personally on missions. Everyone else? They're gonna get snapped, gunned down, or exploded sooner or later. Interestingly, he prefers to use traps whenever possible as opposed to charging in guns blazing. The mercenary known only as "Big Cherry" (due to his eye having been gouged out, and refusing treatment or a covering due to the badass points it gives him), plays the trope straighter despite being a designated antagonist. He'll take out those he finds unpalatable on the way to his intended targets. Kyle usually kills his bosses, causing Cherry to once more swear revenge.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden has always been more or less willing to blast his way out of trouble (for which he's earned a reputation in the magical community as a thug), Karrin Murphy not so much. She believes in the power of the law, and her gradual acceptance that this trope is ever okay is a large fraction of the Darker and Edgier path the series has taken.note 
  • Mack Bolan, the protagonist of The Executioner series of novels, started out as this. The series eventually had him join the government, in a black ops organization. He did have a moral dilemma breakdown during one mission in China however when he was forced to strangle a 14-year-old girl to death because she was a gun-toting fanatic. From that novel onwards he's one of the more restrained members of the Stony Man Farm.
    • The success of the Executioner series spawned a number of knock-off novel series all with essentially the same plot (organized crime kills the protagonist's family causing him to become a one-man army on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge). These series included:
      • The Assassin
      • The Butcher
      • The Marksman
      • The Sharpshooter
  • Girls Don't Hit:
    • Joss's first murder was of the man who had raped and murdered her roommate/lover Crystal.
    • Echo murders an abusive husband whom she'd seen.
  • In the third act of I, Jedi, after some soul-searching, Corran Horn constructs a lightsaber and begins mounting night raids on the Space Pirates of Courkrus as a Jedi Knight. He pointedly avoids actually killing anyone (beating them up, causing property damage, and cutting off the odd gun-hand, yes): his plan is to scare the pirates into leaving in order to weaken their boss, ex-Imperial Moff Leonia Tavira, and try to draw out the Force-users he suspects are helping her evade the New Republic.
  • The Bluejay, also known as Mortimer Folchart in The Inkworld Trilogy shows shades of this, particularly in the third book.
  • Lee Child's Jack Reacher has no problem killing the villains of each book. He doesn't even make a token attempt to call in the law. As with many of the classic Vigilante Men, he only kills those he's positive are guilty, and he does his best to avoid harming innocents. By the fifteenth book in the series, Worth Dying For, there are strong implications that various law enforcement agencies know who he is and what he does and may be subtly guiding him to situations that they can't touch.
  • Marian from MARZENA, although not a man, loves to make herself appear as a Vigilante as to justify her sadistic nature and sell herself as the hero.
  • Murder for the Modern Girl: Ruby Newhouse is a vigilante who kills horrid men who abuse and take advantage of vulnerable women, knowing that said men would be able to get away scot-free and not face justice otherwise.
  • Nuklear Age presents The Civil Defender, a crazed vigilante hell-bent on eliminating all crime, no matter how small. Complete with machine gun and futuristic body armor, the Civil Defender took up being a vigilante when his sandwich was stolen and gives out tickets written on notebook paper when he's sane enough to have his finger off the trigger of his machine gun. He has repeatedly given out tickets for littering because of the pile of other tickets he personally threw to the ground.
  • The Saint is a Gentleman Adventurer version who does his vigilante thing not because of any specific need for vengeance, but because he enjoys the challenge of defeating people who believe they are untouchable. In the earlier novels, he was much more likely to kill the villain of the piece; later stories saw this toned down, and by the time the stories were no longer being written solely by Leslie Charteris, it had virtually vanished. Every so often he would remember his 'bad old days' and choose to exact fatal vengeance on someone the law couldn't touch.
  • Daylen in Shadow of the Conqueror, shortly after he gets his powers, starts slaughtering criminals as his first act of fighting evil. While there is a law in place to clear people of killing rapists and murderers that they catch in the act, he eventually is forced to turn himself and be interrogated to determine if he was truly justified or just committing murder.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: This series is about Vigilante Women. They obey a Thou Shalt Not Kill code, give villains a Fate Worse than Death, and they are usually careful to Never Hurt an Innocent. The book Free Fall had them being arrested by the police, but that's okay, because the judge, prosecuting attorney, and defense attorney are secretly on their side, as well as them being considered heroes by a lot of people. Later on, you have a group of Vigilante Men made up of Jack Emery, Harry Wong, Bert Navarro, Ted Robinson, and Joe Espinosa.
  • The Spider, The Shadow, and numerous literary adventurers of the pre-World War II era fit this trope. In fact, these personages adopted secret identities due to the fact that they knew that the police would arrest them for their sudden justice. Other than Doc Savage (who didn't kill his opponents except when it was completely unavoidable — he just shipped them off to be lobotomized or the equivalent) and the 1939 introduced The Avenger, relatively few of the serial magazine protagonists of this era worked with the open approval and admiration of the police.
  • The Veteran: James Vansittart deliberately makes sure the killers are released so rogue members of the Metropolitan Police Service can strangle them to death. [1], [2]
  • The Christian Marines in Victoria start out like this, a small group of ex-servicemen banding together to take on the criminals who prey on their old neighborhoods. Then they move on to bigger fish, the corrupt politicians and officials who shelter the gangs, and things escalate from there on.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: Megumi Komatsu, a student witch who decided to enroll in an evil Wizarding School, wants to learn The Dark Arts so she can become a vigilante and brutally kill the evil Yakuza gangsters and criminals who hurt her family.
  • Tom Clancy dipped into this genre with Without Remorse, which probably owes some inspiration to The Punisher. Deconstructed in that the protagonist himself is a little worried by his own lack of guilt over some pretty unpleasant methods of questioning, even on an unrepentant monster.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow: 'The Vigilante' is even one of Oliver's titles in the show... Later on, though, he faces off against someone actually called 'Vigilante', who sees nothing wrong with killing criminals and corrupt officials, with Collateral Damage not being a concern. He's eventually revealed to be Dinah's ex-partner and ex-lover Vince, who now has a Healing Factor thanks to the particle accelerator explosion. After Oliver is unmasked and goes to prison, someone new dons a green hood and goes around dispensing vigilante justice with a bow and arrows. Eventually, the person is revealed to be Oliver's other half-sister Emiko Queen, whose existence he wasn't aware of.
  • Big Sky: Richard, an outraged father whose son died from overdosing on drugs the Bhullars sold, goes after them for revenge.
  • Black Lightning (2018): Black Lightning and Thunder (and later Blackbird) are often called vigilantes. Someone on TV wonders why other cities get to call their protectors "superheroes", while theirs are "vigilantes" and then claims it's because they're black. It should be noted that Black Lightning doesn't shy away from killing, though.
  • In Bones, Broadsky the rogue sniper fancied himself a vigilante but is really just a madman who will kill anyone who gets in his way and feels no guilt for killing innocent bystanders.
  • The Boys (2019): The Boys, whose aim is to take down superheroes (they're mostly corrupt, even criminals, in the show).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Willow Rosenberg kills Warren (whom everyone figures deserves it) and tries to kill Andrew and Jonathan, even though they're only guilty by association.
    • Strictly speaking, Buffy herself fits this trope, as she is acting outside of the bounds of the law by hunting vampires and demons (admittedly, the laws aren't really written with anything of the sort in mind, due to The Masquerade).
  • Burden of Truth: Taylor becomes determined to take a john down after she sees him beating up sex workers, and follows him despite Luna's warning against the idea. In the end, she manages to expose a blackmail scheme. She never breaks the law though, and later ends up joining the police to work legitimately against criminals.
  • The Castle episode "Heroes and Villains" features a vigilante that actually dresses like a superhero. While he initially used nonlethal tactics, he eventually commits a murder. It turns out that the vigilante, a female police officer by day, was innocent of the murder. The real killer impersonated her.
  • Deconstructed in an episode of The Commish. The episode features a vigilante who tapes his acts and sends them to the press. At first, his actions are relatively innocuous (running criminals off the road, then humiliating them), and even the cops are cheering him on. Commissioner Tony, however, thinks the guy is bad news. He's proven correct later when the police arrest a man for a brutal rape/murder, then release him after realizing he's innocent. The vigilante, wrongly believing the innocent man got Off on a Technicality, goes to the guy's home and clubs him to death. The vigilante then becomes the cops' target for the rest of the episode.
  • Control Z: Alex becomes the avenger to seek justice for Luis, who was brutally murdered by Gerry, along with righting other wrongs by illegal means.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • The ones from "A Real Rain" and "Reckoner" were fairly standard, killing people who'd been acquitted of crimes or who got lesser sentences (though the one from the latter was actually a Professional Killer paid to act as a vigilante)
    • The one from "True Night" killed off members of a brutal street gang, but was psychotic and didn't even know what he was doing. The BAU mentioned that because he was so severely ill, it was only a matter of time before he became a danger to ordinary people as well. He killed the gang members because they raped and killed his fiancée right in front of him.
    • The priest from "Demonology" could also count, since he was killing the men believed to be responsible for the death of a fellow priest and close friend of his.
    • Played with in the Season Ten episode "Protection," while the killer acts like one, a witness account reveals that the killer was having delusions of crimes being committed. He killed the boyfriend of the witness, who was making out with her, due to the fact that the killer was deluded into thinking that the witness was being raped
  • Dark Desire: Eugenia decided to murder her rapist, despite Esteban's objection.
  • Dark Justice, about a judge who delivers Karmic Retribution to criminals who get off on technicalities, with the aid of various helpers, usually low-level criminals working off their 'community service' sentences.
  • Dexter Morgan from Dexter sometimes sees himself as a vigilante for killing murderers, and in one episode fantasizes about being a superhero who is applauded by the public and in another, has a brief daydream where he acts as a Batman style vigilante Superhero but quickly dismisses it as ridiculous. In his darker moments, however, he admits that he's just a monster with a little more self-control.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: "The Ten Million-Dollar Sheriff," where Rosco hires bounty hunter Jason Steele, who favors using vigilante tactics to capture Bo and Luke as though they were on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list.
  • The Equalizer draws on the vigilante justice issues raised by Death Wish and the Goetz trial (as seen in the MAD spoof where Robert McCall, Charles Bronson, and Bernard Goetz argue over who should shoot a subway mugger). Sometimes the case of the week involves a vigilante or McCall trying to talk of victim of crime out of becoming one. McCall however denies that he is one, presumably because he never does a Vigilante Execution, preferring to use psychological warfare to inspire a confession (though quite a few villains conveniently pull a gun so McCall can shoot them in self-defense).
    McCall: A vigilante places himself above the law. I work and live within the law, and you know that. And you know damn well that I am no vigilante!
  • Equal Justice: The defendant in "The Big Game and Other Crimes" (2x06) is accused of arson for burning down a crack house he felt was a threat to his neighborhood.
  • The protagonist of the ITV series The Fixer killed his aunt and uncle for molesting his sister. This apparently qualified him to work as a covert government hitman. In one episode he's ordered to kill his predecessor, who has turned Rogue Agent and started killing drug dealers and prostitutes.
  • In Flashpoint, there was an episode of a man going after drug dealers and ultimately the main drug lords because his brother had been killed from a drug overdose given to him by these people.
  • In Hack, Mike is an ex-cop turned cab driver cum vigilante. He generally fits into the 'good vigilante' mould.
  • Hand of God: Pernell and KD become this, believing they are God's servants-the titular "Hand of God".
  • The I-Land: Hayden was imprisoned because she went around murdering sex offenders as a vigilante killer. This leads to her own death after she kills Brody for assaulting Chase and K.C.
  • In Justified, Boyd Crowder seems very much this after he apparently gets religion, but the series leaves it ambiguous as to whether he really is or is just faking it an attempt to erect his own criminal empire. Unlike most vigilante men, he doesn't seem to prefer lethal force, and at one point kills someone innocent even by his Well-Intentioned Extremist standards. Rayland harries him the entire season, but when the chips come down, he is revealed to actually be a vigilante man after all, and at the end of the season he goes off apparently to basically become Batman.
  • Liar (2017): Laura is accused of killing Andrew in revenge when he's found dead, rather than having the police track him down. Carl did try to kill him, but failed (unbeknownst to him at first).
  • Deconstructed in Series 3 of Luther, in which Luther suggests that such a person is likely driven by narcissism and entitlement rather than by grief or idealism, and sure enough, the vigilante killer Luther is looking for turns on law enforcement and suffers severe Motive Decay when his savior complex isn't properly validated.
  • Disgruntled cop Manny Lopez in the MacGyver episode "Tough Boys" decided to use his Marine skills to train a bunch of kids to become the Tough Boys of the title and crack down on drug dealers after snapping from the trauma of having a crack-addicted daughter go missing without a trace, leaving him with his drug-addled baby granddaughter. Predictably, the episode ends with Mac having to save the Tough Boys from being nearly killed in a shoot-out and preventing Lopez from blowing himself up along with a major drug dealer.
  • Millennium (1996). The Judge is a pig farmer who uses ex-convicts to inflict Karmic Death on people he believes have escaped justice, such as a landlord whose negligence caused the death of an elderly tenant and a detective whose false testimony sent an innocent man to prison. He invites Frank Black to join his cause, but when he refuses the Judge hits the police with a lawsuit to make them back off. Unfortunately for the Judge his ex-convict killer regards this as hypocrisy, hamstrings the Judge and throws him to his own pigs to be eaten alive.
  • The Passage: Wolgast tracked down and shot his daughter's killer, rather than let him be imprisoned for life. Clarke helped clean it up, along with others of his law enforcement friends.
  • Person of Interest. It's significant that the mysterious Mr Finch recruited a former CIA assassin to do his We Help the Helpless work rather than a private detective.
  • The Purge: There's a group of women called the Matron Saints who work to protect women from rape and other violence from Purgers. Joe also rescues people from others, killing Purgers in the process. It turns out he then puts them on trial for various petty "offenses" against him though.
  • Reservation Dogs: The Deer Lady spirit, protector of women, children, and men who are good them, appears as a beautiful young woman with cloven hooves. She takes the lives of bad men herself, wielding an antler as a knife. Were mortal laws to apply to nature spirits, her murders would be classed as vigilantism.
  • The Rookie (2018): Two Guatemalans seek to assassinate a Guatemalan cartel boss named La Fiera in LA for revenge because her soldiers massacred their village for defiance. Although the cops can understand the desire for revenge, they still have to protect La Fiera from them.
  • The TV series The Shield is about a cop who is a Vigilante Man. Interestingly, the series constantly shows that Mackey's vigilantism is a bad thing, always for his own self-interest, and never in the interests of justice. Then, it goes on to show his Cowboy Cop side, where he bends or outright breaks the law to serve the greater good (a criminal will go free, but the young girl he kidnapped will be saved from being raped and murdered). Notably, the series never specifically casts judgment on Mackey's karma directly, leaving it to the viewer to decide whether he has overall good karma or bad.
  • Star Trek: Picard: Seven of Nine became one as part of the Fenris Rangers, who were a group trying to keep order in the former Romulan Neutral Zone.
  • Supergirl, James/Guardian represents the heroic version, trying to be a Badass Normal, taking care of common criminals, while Supergirl is busy with the monsters and aliens. His non-lethal reputation suffers when he's framed by Vigilante, who turns out to be a former Navy SEAL, lashing out after his wife's murder. While Guardian is content to capture criminals for the police, Vigilante just shoots them, no matter their crime.
  • Sweet/Vicious features a college version of this with its protagonist, the sorority sister and rape survivor Jules, who dons a hoodie and ski mask to torment the sexual predators at her school since the campus' security force seems to not even care about the epidemic of rape at the university. She's joined by Ophelia, a rich kid hacker and weed dealer who runs into her at night when she's on the prowl and manages to figure out her identity.
  • Russian 2009 series Меч (The Sword) presents a group of vigilantes hunting both criminals and corrupt officials who help criminals evade justice. Interestingly, the group consists predominantly of former or active civil servants (an ex-detective who resigned after being proposed a bribe by his own superior, an ex-cop sentenced for murder of a rapist, a young traffic police officer, and a retired FSB agent and state prosecutor).
  • Too Old to Die Young: Diana, a counselor for victims of violent or sexual crimes, offers the services of a vigilante to kill the perpetrator. Viggo, a former FBI agent, does the killing. One murder gets the attention of a young homicide detective, Martin, who ultimately joins Diana and Viggo in their assassinations.
  • Mr. Chapel in Vengeance Unlimited is the rare Technical Pacifist Vigilante Man. Because sometimes making them wish they were dead is better than actually killing them.
  • The Watch (2021): Sybil is one, abducting, torturing, and then killing criminals.

  • The Abney Park song "Victorian Vigilante" is about one of these.
  • Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man" is actually about how American workers would be attacked and beaten by the people of the towns they passed through during The Depression.
  • Insane Clown Posse: "To Catch a Predator" is about a guy who pretends to be a child and lures pedophiles to his house, where he kidnaps the creeps and locks them in a Torture Cellar.
  • To Hell and Back has James Vela, the main character of the song This Is My Heart. Because of an event in his past, James began murdering sex offenders, as he believed the victims weren't getting actual justice. He managed to kill 17 people before being caught and executed.
  • MILGRAM: Kotoko Yuzuriha has a Knight Templar-esque sense of justice and is shown searching for and beating up criminals (at least one to death) in her music video "HARROW".

  • The Shadow: The titular character is a psychic vigilante who has the ability to disguise himself and make himself invisible and has a group of agents working for him. He’s also certainly not above killing either, and he especially seems to like letting loose with a creepy Evil Laugh from time to time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dark Champions contains rules for several modern-day action genres, but defaults to vigilantes taking down criminals. This shouldn't be surprising, as the original 4th edition book was inspired by Steve Long's personal PC the Harbinger of Justice, who is this trope cranked to max.
  • What Delta Green becomes after they are disbanded. Later a faction refuses to become official so they can keep their vigilante status.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Third edition had a Vigilante prestige class, with its iconic character being the unintimidatingly named Beasley Bigums. You couldn't take it if you were evil, and its version of the paladin's Smite ability required you to have witnessed the target committing a crime on your home turf.
    • One example Cult of the Dragon Below in Eberron is a group of people who've grown a mutant third eye on one palm, and are convinced that this eye is a gift from Aureon to allow them to see people who are secretly hidden demons, who they carry out vigilante executions on. Of course, given the number of shady groups manipulating matters in Eberron, it's not impossible that they could really be seeing something malign and supernatural - quori possession, for example.
  • Mafia (or Werewolf (1997)) has the "vigilante" role: a town-aligned player with the ability to kill each night. This "vanilla" version of the role, with unlimited shots and no drawbacks, is notoriously difficult to balance due to just how much difference the player's skill can make — a good vigilante can singlehandedly win the game for town, and a bad one can just as easily doom them.
  • In Massacards, there’s a role called “The Vigilante” from the Innocent Alignment. They have a Light Ability that lets them kill a player. Since Light Abilities can only be used once by default, The Vigilante has only one chance to do so.
  • The New World of Darkness sourcebook Slasher, which is all about serial killers who rise above the cut, has an entire Undertaking dedicated to this — the Avenger. They get the ability to take on multiple foes at once without being overwhelmed but have to actively make the effort to break from their pursuit.
  • In the backstory of Warhammer 40,000, the Primarch of the Night Lords, Konrad Curze, was this. The planet he arrived on after the scattering of the Primarchs was a crime-ridden Wretched Hive named Nostramo, and ultimately Curze decided to bring justice in the most brutal, unforgiving manner possible, essentially acting as a grimdark Batman whose body count left the sewers choked with corpses. He was so successful that he was made the planet's ruler and the entire populace toed the line out of fear that he would kill anyone who broke the law. His story also shows the logical problem with such methods: because the only thing keeping the population in line was fear of Curze, once he leaves to join the Great Crusade, Nostramo slips right back into its old ways.

    Video Games 
  • The title character of Anaksha: Female Assassin is a vigilante assassin who has taken it upon herself to clean up the streets of Santa Lina, one scumbag at a time.
  • At the end of second season of Batman: The Telltale Series John Doe, as a result of your actions throughout the game as a player, becomes either Vigilante or Villain Joker. At first when he is introduced as the Vigilante Joker, he appears to be a great ally to Batman against the unjust Amanda Waller. However as the story goes on Batman and Joker's means to uphold justice are conflicting and John Doe becomes a Well-Intentioned Extremist, pretty much murdering anyone who stands in his way of his own justice.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, Dark Knights are vigilantes who harness Black Magic with The Power of Hate to protect and avenge the innocent when they are made to suffer, especially if that suffering is caused by those in power and authority who should be protecting them.
  • The protagonists of Final Fight are out to stop a criminal organization that took over the city and kidnapped the mayor's daughter. They include a ninja, the mayor's daughter's boyfriend, and the mayor, himself! (Helps that said mayor is a former wrestler.)
  • Genshin Impact:
    • Diluc protects the city of Mondstadt from monsters and criminals at night as the "Darknight Hero". He didn't choose the name for himself, however, and didn't expect to become a sort of folk hero. It's also connected to how he dislikes the Knights of Favonius because they're a Slave to PR who's tied too much with the "diplomacy" business.
    • Rosaria is technically a nun, but she only performs the bare minimum of duties required of her in that role. Her de facto occupation is protecting Mondstadt from the shadows, and for this reason the Church tolerates her behavior. That said, this was never an official part of her job description. She threatened to arrest Paimon and the Traveler for eavesdropping, and even kept a close eye on their activities with Albedo for any signs of a threat to the safety of Mondstadt. Fischl inadvertently overheard Rosaria in the middle of her enforcement, but thought Rosaria was just devoutly praying.
    Rosaria: May you be struck down in the name of Lord Barbatos!
  • Grand Theft Auto games have the Vigilante missions, accessed from any law enforcement or military vehicle, in which you need to kill increasing amounts of people in a time limit.
  • Deconstructed with The Fans in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number - despite going up against armed criminals, they do that for the sake of violence, aimlessly improvising targets for their massacres on the go and quickly finding themselves doing favors for their friends after finding out there's not many people to kill.
    • The 50 Blessings project itself is deconstructed when vigilantes simultaneously kill the presidents of both nations, and without leadership in either nation everything escalates. Best-case scenario, America is nuked. Worst case, everything is nuked.
  • The heroes of Interstate '76 are outright called Auto-Vigilantes - men and women taking to their Weaponized Cars in a worse version of the 70's gas crisis, who have to deal with criminals themselves because the police are either too incompetent or too corrupt to do anything about them.
  • Knight Bewitched: During a mandatory cutscene in Westvale, Uno reveals that he kills those who use their wealth and power to escape the law. He's also willing to break people out of prison if they're unjustly arrested, as shown when he throws away King Floyd's pardon in order to free Ruth.
  • Lost Judgment; one of the main villains is revealed to be a disgraced former teacher who became a vigilante specifically targeting bullies that had a hand in student suicides and got off scot free. While many of the protagonists can't fault his motives, none of them appreciate his Knight Templar methods.
  • LunarLux: There are rumors of a powerful warrior, the Murk Slayer, who hunts Murks despite not being affiliated with or authorized by the Lunex Force. Although he doesn't appear to be causing problems for civilians, the Force still wants to arrest him because he's taking the anticores from the Murks, which scientists need to research. He doesn't trust the Lunex Force, so he refuses to give up the anticores or even explain his motives.
  • Mass Effect 2 has Archangel, who turns out to be a Cowboy Cop frustrated by being hindered by ineffectual bureaucracy. He's so good at it that three rival mercenary groups that hate each others' guts team up to take him down. He also isn't above cruel punishments, like killing criminals by sabotaging the air supply of their space suits or infecting them with their own bio-weapons. There's some Deconstruction later on; his loyalty mission involves hunting down a guy who set him up to dole out some vigilante justice, but if you take the paragon route and convince Archangel that letting him live is punishment enough, he comments on how Grey-and-Gray Morality doesn't have a lot of place for this and that he prefers to see things as black and white because it makes things easier.
  • Max Payne:
    • The title character's motivation is Punisher-like — his family is murdered, and he'll throw everything he's got at the people who did it to make sure they pay.
    • According to supplementary material for Max Payne 3, the Cracha Preto were originally lawmen hunting down criminals the law couldn't or wouldn't touch... originally.
  • Overwatch features Soldier 76 as a vigilante seeking to expose and bring down the conspiracy that shut down Overwatch, that he was a leader of. Overwatch itself later returns as a group of vigilantes, seeking to right the wrongs of the world while operating outside the law.
  • The Phantom Thieves of Hearts from Persona 5 are exactly this, going outside the law in an Eldritch Location to pull Heel–Face Brainwashing tricks on those who deserve it.
  • Julius Little from Saints Row starts an entire vigilante gang to put an end to the Mob War tearing the eponymous 'hood of Stilwater apart. He names said group the "3rd Street Saints", both after their home turf (particularly the Saints Row Church that serves as their base of operations), and to symbolize how they are supposed to look after the little people. Much later, it is revealed that the Saints are actually Julius' second attempt to Clean Up the Town: the first time was when he and Benjamin King formed the Vice Kings in Sunnyvale to break the Lopez family's stranglehold on Stilwater. While they succeeded in pushing back the Carnales, King abandoned their initial goals and became a criminal kingpin himself, prompting Julius to drop his flags and to start again in the Row. However, just like King, the Saints end up Slowly Slipping Into Evil as they grow in power, so Julius decides to disband the gang and is eventually killed by his right hand for betraying them.
  • Frost Ace has become this in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. It's almost like he's trying to become a Henshin Hero version of Batman.
  • To a degree, Yun and Yang from the Street Fighter series, as the twins strive to protect their beloved Hong Kong from all kinds of peril and use their martial arts to do so. Specially emphasized in Street Fighter Alpha III, where Yun chases after Fei-Long when he and Yang take rumors about him being in the drug trade at face value. The real culprit is Vega/Bison.
  • The three protagonists of the original Streets of Rage were police officers, but when The Syndicate took over the city, including the police, the three officers quit in order to take on Mr. X and company themselves.
  • Tales of Vesperia.
    • Yuri Lowell grew up in the slums of The Empire with his friend Flynn Scifo and joined the Imperial Knights with him. After growing disgusted with the government's weakness and the cruelty of the nobles, he left Flynn to try and reform the Empire from within while he seeks to give the commoners the justice that the current system denies them. Later on, he joins up with the Guild Union in the hope of eliminating injustice from the world completely. He is rather Genre Savvy; knowing that his actions are unlawful and may bring him closer to what he hates, he is willing to break the law anyway if it serves the greater good.
    • There is also a sidequest involving a Vigilante Man who has fewer scruples than Yuri.
    • Flynn considers the second Big Bad, Duke Pantarei, to be a vigilante, albeit on a larger scale than what most people would consider vigilantism. Duke stole the empire's national treasure, the Dein Nomos sword, in order to solve aer-related disasters by himself. After the planet is exposed to the Adephagos, Duke decides to be humanity's judge, jury, and executioner by using Tarqaron to sacrifice them to destroy the Adephagos. Even when the party presents an alternative solution, Duke fears that humanity will still find ways to destroy the world in their pursuit of technology.
  • The Vigilante is a role in Town of Salem. Vigilantes have three bullets and can shoot someone they suspect of being a member of the mafia at night. However, this can backfire: if he shoots a fellow town member, he kills himself the next night out of guilt. Vampire Hunters can also become Vigilantes if all the Vampires get staked, however, he only gets one bullet.
  • The title character in the aptly named Vigilante is officially this, although the focus is more on the quest to rescue his girlfriend.
  • The 2014 game Watch_Dogs features a protagonist that is a rather high-tech version of this, relying on a smartphone as much as a gun. He is also trying to break free from the stranglehold of information control while also righting some personal wrongs. It just happens that this involves going up against the Chicago mob and being against the law. Naturally, it's up to the player what kind of vigilante they make him out to be: you can be a ruthless cop-killer, or you can just outrun them.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations:
    • The Yatagarasu, a noble thief who steals information on corrupt business dealings and sends them to the media. Establishing the identity and motivations of the Yatagarasu and its target are a big part of the game's plot. Kay Faraday tries to pick up the tradition after the first Yatagarasu is put out of action. She's not very good at it.
    • In the sequel, Big Bad Simon Keyes is driven by both Killing in Self-Defense and Revenge against the internationally powerful fake President Huang and other villains who have terrorized him for most of his life. However, he's also willing to frame innocent people in the process, thus making himself the He Who Fights Monsters variety of this.
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the group learns about a Spanish vigilante called Sparkling Justice who kills corrupt people in the name of justice, leaving behind a mask as a calling card. Peko Pekoyama pretends to be Sparkling Justice when cornered as the culprit for killing Mahiru Koizumi(who'd tried to dispose of evidence for a murder her friend had committed), believing that if she were convicted, she could claim that her master, Fuyuhiko Kuzuryuu, was truly responsible, enabling him to graduate.
  • Among the Shall We Date? visual novels, two deal with groups of these:

  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Dr. McNinja is a doctor and a ninja. Who desperately wants to be Batman. The police of Cumberland know who he is and what he does, but he's made a deal with them: after any action they could arrest him for, if he can get back to his office and declare "Base!" before they catch him, he's off the hook for it. He's never shown actually doing so, and most episodes end with him back at the office and no evidence that the police even tried to catch him.
  • Axe Cop. The police are after him, everyone he kills is evil, and he uses lethal force against pretty much everyone "bad". Though he switches back and forth on the killing of public servants (he beheads many FBI agents to protect Uni-Baby, but is unwilling to kill the police officers trying to arrest him).
  • In Homestuck, Terezi is pretty obsessed with this kind of justice, which funnily enough is not too different from the actual court system in Troll society. She also used to partner up with Vriska in FLARP session to kill off other players, but only the ones that really deserved to be punished. She leaves when Vriska starts murdering indiscriminately.
  • Oasis from Sluggy Freelance took on this role when she lived in Podunkton, killing pretty much the entire mafia establishment in town, as well as any miscellaneous crooks who pass through. She seems to do this largely out of boredom. However, since she had previously been an Ax-Crazy assassin who'd kill anyone who came between her and Torg, this vigilante justice is actually a sign of Oasis becoming less violent.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • The Flying Man is a deconstruction of the trope, depicting a scenario where a ruthless vigilante has somehow gotten Flying Brick superpowers similar to Superman. The result is a horrifying Humanoid Abomination that brutally murders over thirty criminals in about a week, sometimes right in front of innocent civilians, simply because no one in the city has the power to stop him. Intriguingly, the ending suggests he may have a more human side to him, as he spares a small-time crook upon seeing that the man has a young child.

    Western Animation 
  • Lin Beifong from The Legend of Korra drops her job as Da Chief and goes vigilante in order to fight Amon. Though she's still a policewoman at her core and doesn't kill anyone. Korra herself gets into some trouble early on with the police when she tries to hunt down criminals: she feels she's justified in that she's the Avatar, while the police are annoyed at some naive civilian girl interfering in their work. As the show goes on and Korra gets some Character Development, she begins to learn to cooperate and work with the police, rather than just blindly charging in on her own. More often than not though, the police and government are willing to let Korra deal with the situation as she sees fit.
  • The Spectacular Spider Man: Played with here. Although one of Spider-Man's main goals in the series is to take down the organized crime in New York (which boils down to the crime bosses Tombstone, Silver Sable, Master Planner/Dr. Octopus, and the Green Goblin), he works with the police (namely Captain Stacy) and does his best not to severely injure the criminals he goes after. The police work with Spider-Man (despite a few of them being against him) because they know he's the only one capable of fighting the super-criminals that keep popping up.
  • The SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron kinda count; although their reason is that the Enforcers aren't flexible enough to take down the supervillains who attack on a weekly basis. Indeed, they were once Enforcer pilots, but got kicked out by their Jerkass Commander, Ulysses Feral, after Feral pulled an idiotic Only I Can Kill Him move while they were trying to capture one of the chief villains, Dark Kat; after he demoted them to working in a junkyard, they promptly realized the Enforcers were throwing a lot of good stuff away and used this to build their arsenal (including their Cool Plane, the TurboKat) and handle the villains on their terms.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): Casey Jones is shown to be this in his debut episode (much like in the original comics). Unlike his comic version, however, he's given an Adaptational Angst Upgrade that gives him a (somewhat) understandable reason to want to kill members of the Purple Dragons street gang.

    Real Life 
  • Bernie Goetz was labeled the "Subway Vigilante" after he gunned down four men who werenote  mugging him. The incident sparked a national debate on vigilantism, though his actions do not fit into the classic mold of a vigilante. At trial, one of the men he shot admitted they planned to rob him. Goetz was acquitted of all the charges except for illegally carrying a gun, doing eight months. He was later successfully sued, however.
  • Jack Ruby, who killed Lee Harvey Oswald to avenge his assassination of John F. Kennedy. On live television. He himself was arrested.
  • Three-time killer William Inmon was a self-proclaimed vigilante. His arguments for this are unconvincing.
  • The term comes from the Vigilance Committees set up in the old west when settlement had outrun the law. The actual behavior of these committees was more complicated than the traditional Torches and Pitchforks angry mob, though that picture is hardly without merit. Some lawmen, for instance, found it useful to use these as material when forming posses.
  • The Whitechapel Vigilance Committee tried to be this in the days of Jack the Ripper. Tired of the police not catching the criminal, they sent out men on patrols round Whitechapel and tried to investigate the case themselves. Which didn't do a lot; the Ripper himself was confident enough he wouldn't get caught that he sent the letter with half a human kidney attached to their leader.
  • In Italy it was so diffused that the Italian language has the word giustiziere specifically to denote this. The fact it's derived from the Italian word for "justice" should be enough to explain why it was so diffused, and why the mindset is still there.
  • Vigilante killings of suspected drug traffickers incited (and are still inciting) bitter Flame Wars when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte came to power with the promise to stamp out crime, corruption, and illegal drugs. He has publicly praised death squads behind this, and been accused of supporting them financially.
  • New York City-based app Vigilante gave people access to 911 calls in real time and encouraged users to help the police by sharing info and identifying criminals; it was banned specifically because of the concern it would give rise to real vigilantism. The app was later retooled and rereleased with the less scary name Citizen.
  • The Gulabi Gang in India advocates for women's rights and in particular fights injustice and violence against women. To be fair, they would report incidents to the authorities first, but this can be seen as formality due to corruption. As a last resort, they'd lynch the perpetrator using lathis. That said, Torches and Pitchforks is just a small fraction of their other, nonviolent, humanitarian activities.
  • YouTuber and grey-hat hacker Jim Browning has been styled by mainstream news organisations as a "vigilante" following the successful infiltration and police raid of a Delhi-based scam call centre after said establishment was found by Browning to be conning at least 40,000 people from the UK and US. Browning did not approve of this label, as he stated in a tweet that he was by no means a vigilante based on his methods—in no way was he racist or spiteful towards the criminals he confronts, and he has made efforts to bring scammers to the attention of Indian authorities, only for his concerns to fall on deaf ears due to how woefully corrupt the country's law enforcement agencies are.
  • Public safety group The Guardian Angels have been around since 1979, operating in New York and later expanding to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Orlando. They're distinctively known for their red berets and tracksuits and are known to be staffed by members who're trained in CPR, Conflict Resolution, and basic Martial Arts.
  • In 2020, two Atlanta men fatally shot a jogger whom they believed had been responsible for a string of burglaries in the neighborhood. They cited an old citizens' arrest law as their justification, which did not protect them from arrest but did bring attention to the law and led to its swift repeal.
  • In the midst of anarchy in the High Middle Ages Westphalia, Vehmic courts were established by the Holy German Emperor to try and judge miscreants. Accuseds were given six weeks and three days (or 45 days) to come to be tried, and the sole verdicts available were death or acquittal. Although public order was assured starting from the 1400s, such courts were abolished only in 1811 by King Jerome of Westphalia.
  • Inmate Steven Sandison was hailed by some for killing convicted paedophile Theodore Dyer and made no bones about doing what was perceived as an act of vigilantism, but he did maintain that he was by no means a hero. Some have expressed doubts on whether his actions were worth the praise considering his prior criminal record, though.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Vigilante Men, Vigilante Woman


Casey Jones [Blue]

Technically, his hair is supposed to be black, but with the way the animation is, it sometimes looks more blue than black.

How well does it match the trope?

3.82 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / HairColorDissonance

Media sources: